36-year Indiana Senate Veteran Loses His Seat
36-year Indiana Senate Veteran Loses His Seat, Long-serving Republican Senator Richard Lugar faced the toughest re-election battle of his 36-year career in Indiana on Tuesday, with Democrats hoping his defeat could help them snatch the seat in November.
Lugar was first elected to the Senate in 1976 and twice served as chairman of the chamber’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee.
But the six-term incumbent now finds himself in the fight of his political life, trailing a more conservative alternative, state treasurer Richard Mourdock, in the party primary by as much as 10 points in recent polls.
Republican colleagues in Washington were already treating Lugar, 80, like a cautionary tale as lawmakers gear up for a bruising 2012 general election campaign.
“I’d say if you’re an incumbent you’d better not lose touch with home,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, reflecting sweeping criticism that Lugar was too disconnected from Indiana voters and failed to acknowledge his own vulnerability this year until he was in deep trouble.
“I admire and respect and appreciate Senator Lugar, and I hope that he wins, but the moral of the story is, play offense not defense,” said Senator John McCain.
Lugar’s potential ouster could be the latest foray by tea party activists, who advocate lower taxes and smaller government, to extend their influence in Congress and sweep out lawmakers they believe are too liberal.
A battle royale is shaping up for the Senate, which is narrowly in Democratic hands, 51-47 plus two independents who caucus with Democrats. But a large majority of the seats which experts say are most vulnerable in 2012 are held by Democrats, and the party believes a Lugar loss could be their gain.
“If Mr. Mourdock emerges in the Indiana primary, it’s only going to give Democrats another pickup opportunity,” Senator Charles Schumer told reporters, noting that Mourdock has openly vowed a non-compromising stance in Washington. (AFP)